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This post is two-fold, I am both going to show you how to make Ryan’s Creamy Mushroom Risotto for Two AND show you how to throw an actually fun virtual dinner party. I know we are all getting fatigued of the “virtual happy hours” and zoom meetings, but stick with me on this, we really found a way to make it feel like a real dinner party. (Mostly thanks to our Canon PIXMA TR4520, but more on that in a minute.)
First I want to start with this Creamy Mushroom Risotto recipe, and tell you all about it. This is another dish Ryan made me early in our relationship, and I was like WOAH this is way more flavorful than any other risotto I’ve had. A lot of that comes down to what kind of stock you use. We highly suggest using The Best Chicken Stock with What You Already Have in the Kitchen, it’s Ryan’s go-to recipe for adding a punch of flavor into the base of a lot of dishes, but especially this risotto.
The other nice thing about this risotto for two is that it a smaller portion, which ultimately means you won’t have to stand over a pot and stir for hours like a lot of risotto recipes. Ryan can make this recipe in just over 30 minutes, but a lot of that has to do with his quick knife skills for prep. So I’d say it’ll take the average Joe about 45-60 minutes to make start to finish. The shortened time is simply due to the fact that the portion is small so you’re cooking less rice.
This Creamy Mushroom Risotto for Two was the perfect dish for our virtual dinner party, because it’s pretty customizable. For example, you can easily make it vegetarian by switching the chicken stock to veggie stock and getting vegetarian parmesan, or you can leave out the mushrooms and sub in peas or something like that. So it can accommodate people’s dietary restrictions and eating habits (to a degree.) But now I’ve teased you enough about this dinner party, let’s get into the details….
How to Throw an ACTUALLY FUN Virtual Dinner Party
The basic idea of our virtual dinner party was to invite a few friends to cook the same meal with us at the same time, so then we could all sit down to dinner at the same time each in our own homes! I wanted it to feel as much like a real dinner party as it could so we went a little above and beyond by making meal kits for everyone, which I recommend doing because it was so fun and really added to the “hostess” vibe of this party. It made me feel normal for a day, and in this world that’s a huge thing. You obviously don’t have to make meal kits for everyone, you could all just pick a recipe and have everyone do their own grocery shopping, but again – it really was such a fun thing to do.
Here’s the breakdown of exactly how we threw this party together…
- Pick a dish. We obviously chose this Creamy Mushroom Risotto for Two, because of the small portion size, the ease of cooking process, the simplicity of ingredients, and the adaptability-factor. We’ve included another recipe that would be great for a dinner party like this in the Canon In the Kitchen Ebook, that you can download by clicking here! Not to brag, but everyone did say this recipe was extremely easy to follow and even our friends who don’t cook often were very proud of their results.
- Make a guest list. After throwing this party, I’d recommend not inviting more than 6 screens. (AKA max 12 people, if two are in each household). That felt like the most amount of people that we could handle while still having conversations that flowed nearly normally. I’d even say 8 people total (or 4 screens) would be a great number. Keep it small and intimate. This will also help cut costs if you’re making meal kits.
- Make a grocery list. You can see a photo of what went into our meal kit below, but essentially when you are making your grocery list you want to find a way to get individual servings for everyone. For instance, we bought canned wine for everyone (actually two cans – one for cooking and one for drinking), because canned wine was an easier and more cost effective way to give smaller amounts of wine to everyone. We used mason jars for things like stock and olive oil, and wrapped butter and parmesan in parchment paper. This was an easy way to give people exactly what they needed, instead of a whole box of stock or a whole bag of rice, etc. that they may or may not ever use again.
- Pack your meal kits. Be sure to include a recipe card in there! This is where we majorly relied on our Canon PIXMA TR4520 to print out cute, color-accurate, recipe cards for us. You can see the printable I used below, feel free to print them off and use them for your own party. They’re formatted to be a 5×7 card. We used the 8.5×11 Double Sided Photo Paper to print the cards on then cut them to size. We also used our printer to print little labels for some of the ingredients. For instance, we tucked little labels under the wine tabs that read “for cooking” and “for drinking.” The Canon PIXMA TR4520 allowed us to add such cute touches like that! It made each bag so much more special to open, and our guests really took notice. Again, it made me feel like an actual hostess for the first time in a long time and that’s a feeling I LOVE.
- Deliver the kits. We chose to deliver each meal kit the morning of our dinner party. This allowed us to communicate any extra instructions to our guests, as well as get to see everyone face to face (well, mask-to-mask), but it was still a fun special moment. Luckily most everyone we know is working from home still, so it made it easy to drop off perishable items because they could immediately refrigerate them. This step makes it crucial to coordinate with your guests (and it helps if they live close to you!)
- Clearly set a time for dinner “to be served.” We started our dinner party at 6:30, so we gave everyone the time estimate I gave you above. We suggested they start cooking 45mins – 1 hour before we sat down to dinner, depending on their level of comfortability in the kitchen.
- ENJOY. This was truly one of the most fun nights I’ve had in a long time. It nearly felt like actually having a dinner party with my friends. There is such unification in sharing the same meal, and sitting down to eat together. Someone even suggested that next time we start the zoom call earlier, so we could all finish cooking together! Everyone who came to the dinner party asked that we do this again, so I’d call that a success.
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 large shallot (using shallots as opposed to an onion also helps make this an easy smaller batch)
- 1 celery stalk
- 6 oz mushrooms – We gave everyone 3 oz of oyster mushrooms and 3 oz of shiitake mushrooms, you can use any you like, all you have to do is make sure you cut them the same size.
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tbsp parsley
- 1/3 c olive oil
- 1/2 c arborio rice
- 1/4 c white wine – we used a Pino Grigio, but any kind will do
- 2 1/4 c Chicken (or vegetable) Stock – Again, I highly recommend making the Best Chicken Stock (aka. Ryan’s chicken stock)
- 1/2 c+ parmesan cheese – we recommend freshly grating it as opposed to buying it already grated, this amps up the flavor.
- 1 tbsp butter
- salt and pepper
This step is basically “do all the prep.” Mince the garlic. Finely dice the shallot and celery. Slice your mushrooms (remember to make them uniform sizes.) Chop your herbs. If you need a refresher on what a fine dice looks like, check out 11 Knife Cuts Everyone Should Know. If you’re struggling specifically with the shallot, remember it’s basically a small onion and you can follow this guide for finely dicing onions.
First you want to heat your stock in a small pot, bringing it to a boil and then letting it simmer on low while you work on your main pot. Heating the stock prevents you from dropping the temperature and slowing the cook of the main pot when you start adding in batches of stock. While the stock is heating up, begin by heating your larger pot over medium heat with your olive oil.
Once hot, add shallot, celery and garlic. Season with a pinch of salt. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring often, just until they start to soften.
After 3-5 minutes, add in your mushrooms, and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often.
Next you’ll add in the arborio rice and stir it for 1 minute, allowing it to lightly toast. After 1 minute, add in 1/4 c white wine and let it cook until it has mostly absorbed, stirring often.
Now you’ll begin to add in your stock in about 3 batches, or 1 scant cup at a time. Use a ladle or a measuring cup to pour about 1 cup of stock into the main pot, stir often until it has mostly absorbed. Then ladle in the next cup of stock and repeat the process until all of the stock is mostly absorbed. You’ll also want to season with a pinch more salt at this point.
When the stock is mostly absorbed and the Creamy Mushroom Risotto looks like a loose porridge, turn off the heat and add in your herbs, butter, and parmesan cheese. Stir to incorporate.
Divide your Creamy Mushroom Risotto between two bowls and top with more parmesan cheese if desired! ENJOY.
Creamy Mushroom Risotto for Two
- 2 Garlic Cloves Minced
- 1 Large Shallot Fine Diced
- 1 Celery Stalk Fine Diced
- 6 oz Mushrooms De-Stemmed, Sliced
- 1 t Thyme Picked, Chopped
- 1 T Parsley Picked, Chopped
- ⅓ c Olive Oil
- ½ c Arborio Rice
- ¼ c White Wine
- 2¼ c Chicken Stock Or Vegetable Stock
- ½ c Grated Parmesan plus more for garnish
- 1 T Butter
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
Begin by heating the stock to a boil in a small pot and heating a medium sized pot over medium heat. Turn the stock down to a low, just to keep hot, once it has started boiling.
Add the olive oil to the larger pot once it is hot, followed by the garlic, shallot and celery, season with a pinch of salt.
Allow them to cook for about 3-5 minutes, just so they have softened and become slightly translucent, not looking for colour at this point. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have softened and begin to catch a little color, about 5-7 minutes.
Add the rice to the mix and stir once or twice over a minute or so, then carefully add the wine, and continue to stir occasionally until it has been nearly reduced and absorbed by the rice, you’ll know when the pot has mellowed out and quieted down.
Next add the stock about a cup at a time, stirring semi frequently, until it has mostly absorbed, then add about another cup, and continue this process until all the stock has been incorporated. Add a pinch or two of salt in this stage as well.
After the last bit of stock has gone in, keep a close eye that you turn the heat off whilst the risotto is still a loose porridge, it will continue to absorb moisture.
Add the thyme, parsley, butter, cheese, and pepper, stir to combine, taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary.
Plate and enjoy topped with some added grated cheese and herbs!
- If mushrooms aren’t your thing, or you just want to switch up your risottos, cook the onion mixture a bit longer and proceed with the recipe, when your adding the last portion of stock you can stir in some frozen peas, or some chopped spinach, blanched green beans, jarred artichoke hearts, or anything you’d like. Just keep in mind that adding at this point won’t cook what you add so much as heat it up, so if you want something cooked longer, like the mushrooms, add it in the sauté stage.
- I like to use a mix of mushrooms, any kind you like, just make sure the are all cut to similar size shape as you can.